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Space Brothers Collection 4 Blu-ray Anime Review

11 min read

Space Brothers Part 4 HeaderNew challenges take hold of our favorite brothers.

What They Say:
In the unforgiving vacuum of space, the difference between life and death can boil down to a single bad decision or a millisecond of delay. And when the nearest help is as far away as another planet, the only one you can trust to save you is yourself. This lesson is driven home in the most brutal fashion possible as a series of accidents strand Mutta’s brother Hibito and another astronaut on the lunar surface. As Hibito fights to keep his injured companion alive, Mutta must join a team of scientists and fellow astronauts as they struggle to find a way to locate and save their friends before their critical oxygen reserves run out.

And if that wasn’t enough of a test, Mutta’s entry into JAXA training becomes its own ordeal when he and his fellow trainees are dropped into the survival test course on an accelerated schedule. Foraging for food and facing wild animals on one planet, and fighting for one’s last breath on its satellite, two brothers worlds apart find common ground in the fight to stay alive!

Contains episodes 39-51.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this series comes with just the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that definitely uses its forward soundstage well with what it does as it handles the dialogue well as it shifts from the characters talking to particular internal dialogue, but it also handles some of the space and machine based elements in a really good way to give it the kind of attention to detail it needs to come alive. The show is one that is definitely largely dialogue based though with what it does and it plays it well here with solid placement, appropriate depth in a few scenes where needed and generally has a strong and clear design to it that’s free of problems and distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing from 2012 to 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. This set comes with thirteen episodes spread across two discs in a nine/four format. Animated by A-1 Pictures, the show has a great look to it overall as it presents a great range of characters across ages, ethnicities and jobs in a way that few shows do, which makes this feel like far more of a real world than normal. That character designs are definitely a good point, but it’s the set and mechanical design that shines even more as it spent a good bit of its time and money on research in order to be quite accurate and well detailed, and that’s wonderfully brought to life here in the transfer with the quality of the animation shining through. Colors have a great look, the detail within the series is given a very solid look and the overall flow of the animation is strong here when it goes big with many sequences.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the disc against the interior wall. The front cover gives us another really fun piece of artwork as we get Hibito and Mutta together in their particular outfits for the moment as they lift off helmets. The cute part of course is that Apo is on Mutta’s head and it’s made all the cuter by everyone’s expressions. The logo along the top has a simple approach with a blue-ish purple that plays to a space kind of theme, but just feels kind of off in general. It’s not a bad cover, but it doesn’t exactly sell it all that well with certain aspects. The back cover is a bit better as we get a bit of the moonscape along the background while over it we get the breakdown of the premise along with a look at the disc and episode count. The shots from the show are decent with a good variety while the rest is given over to the usual production credits and the technical grid which covers everything cleanly and clearly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release has a nice touch or two to it, though it has to deal with the mediocre at best logo. The layout is straightforward with a static image for it as unlike past volumes, it eschews character artwork and just goes with the logo. The logo is stretched across it in a way that may just a be a bit too big, but I like the menu navigation along the right where it uses some lunar designs to it for the background and a solid font that ties it into a slightly near future kind of kind but also something that fits in tone with something more professional oriented like the whole JAXA and NASA angle. Submenus are minimal as there’s no language selection menu to be had here and extras are on the second disc.

Extras:
The only extras included here are the clean opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Space Brothers moves up to the halfway point with this release for the series and it covers a lot of ground in general. But really, when doesn’t this show cover a lot of ground? When you look at what it’s accomplished in these first fifty episodes in terms of story, character development and actual progress, it’s pretty damn amazing because shows like this typically don’t get made. This batch of episodes works through two very different main arcs and they’re both ones that I struggled with to some degree when I watched them on a weekly basis. The events play out much better here when marathoned over a session or two as the narrative feels tighter and cleaner overall.

The first main arc that exists here is that we get to see more of what’s going on with Hibito on the moon. While a great deal of focus recently was on bringing together the group of five from JAXA to make the cut, which played out beautifully, returning to the younger brother in space is quite welcome. There’s not a lot of material in regards to their job overall with what they do, but we get to see some of the things they do, the routine they have and the science of it all. Part of it is also routine maintenance and work with the remote controlled and automatic robots out there. That has Hibito and Damian going off to find one named Gibson that has gone missing. Since these things do valuable work and cost a fair bit of money, it’s not something you let slide even with the expense of what astronauts cost and their time is worth while up on the lunar surface.

Naturally, something unexpected has to happen and a combination of paying attention to the wrong thing and the lunar landscape itself comes into play. That has the pair in their buggy flying over a cliff and into a ravine. A ravine so deep that it doesn’t get any light, which makes a lot of their gear useless since it’s solar powered. This story arc works over several episodes as we get to see Hibito really face the challenge of survival because Damian’s hurt, their buggy is useless and he ends up in an even worse position himself as he tries to salvage the situation. There’s always been the constant of danger when it comes to space travel and exploration and this really drives it home in a big way while being as detailed as it can as well. What helps is that Hibito’s certainly a good one to work through this because of his mindset in dealing with problems, sometimes out of the box at that, and as things just keeping getting worse it forces him into some really tough choices.

But it also paints us a picture where all the effort can’t truly save him in the end. While he secures things in a very good way for Damian so that he can hold out until someone from the base can come and rescue him, events push Hibito into a position where he has to accept his fate. It’s a very good sequence overall, though it could have used a bit more panic coming from him, but having a character face something like this, one we’ve really gotten to know well, cements it all the more because you have to believe there’ll be a trick along the way. This portion of the arc also gives us some flashback material that figures into events as well. Since we’ve gotten plenty of dialogue and flashback bits with Brian Jay before, it’s a key piece here because so much of what Brian taught him is coming into focus about what to do when astronauts are faced with situations like this. Hibito’s adhering to it for the most part, but his concern for others is what really drives him. Especially as we see how he and Damian’s family spent time together and you know Hibito is contrasting that with his own lack of wife or children.

This arc also brings us some good insights into how some of NASA works when dealing with situations like this, though certainly not on like an Apollo 13 film kind of exploration. It has JAXA helping out along the way as well since they can provide for some good technical support, but there’s that moment that you really enjoy because of what Mutta brings to the table in understanding his brother and how he’d react in that situation. It’s not about Mutta and what he’d do but rather what Hibito would do. They don’t go to a lot of past experiences to show how this would play out, but there are instances from the past that are covered lightly in flashback to highlight that Hibito always comes back and finds a way. It’s a good reinforcement overall and it makes some interesting ripples further down the line as the arc plays out, especially with Azuma.

The other main arc involves the five from JAXA, after their amusing little Blue Ranger piece as they acclimate to being astronauts now, find themselves being sent back to Houston again in order to participate in joint training. This is an event that NASA holds from time to time and involves a two year program that puts astronauts from various countries together to work through the program. Though they’re rivals in some ways, there’s also a camaraderie aspect to being an astronaut as it’s a largely elite group overall. Bringing the group back to Houston for an extended period is a good thing though because they get to be involved in a whole lot of things going on. Mutta gets to take up residence at Hibito’s, bringing Apo back home at last, and Kenji ends up crashing with him for the duration as well. Others end up getting their own places and a certain settling in starts to happen while also interacting with the NASA regulars and those other international and American astronauts going through the program.

A good chunk of the arc in this set focuses on these elements and there’s a lot to like with it. But it also moves forward to the next phase, beyond the book learning side, as we get the project manager Vincent ready to put them through their paces. Since he intends to do this in eighteen months instead of twenty-four, he pushes them hard since he views most of them as not worth the effort. Particularly someone like Mutta that just seemingly feels like he irritates him before even meeting him. A lot of this half of the arc works towards the physical as five teams are put together for wilderness survival in the desert and that has our mostly Japanese team together with the lone Indian woman, Amanti. Wilderness training is important and they reinforce that several times but the challenges here are made more difficult since Vincent is trying to weed people out early.

There aren’t a lot of stories per se in this part of the arc, but the main focus we get is that of Nitta. We’ve seen several of the characters with their personal stories so far from the Japanese camp but Nitta has been underserved since he went through a lot of the trials at JAXA in a different group than Mutta. Nitta’s story isn’t a bad one and it explains some of his distractions going on while going through the training, but there’s also that sense that it doesn’t factor in too heavily in the big picture. Pieces of it do start to come to light that helps to show why he’s pushing so hard to go as far as he can here and why he’s involved in space overall, but it still feels weaker than some of the other characters and their motivations. I like Nitta well enough but this isn’t a background story that really drives him forward in a more engaging way.

In Summary:
Space Brothers works through some of the material I had the hardest time with during the simulcast form and it does it in a way that I ended up finding more engaging. Hibito’s arc is one that I really like here a whole lot more because of the marathoning of it as the tension didn’t feel as drawn out overall by the weekly wait. The same can be said of Mutta’s arc once the training gets underway and he has to deal with a whole lot of walking and other problems thrown at him and his group. Both arcs present very different things while building the bigger picture and introducing a whole host of other seeded moments and characters along the way. This is a fully realized world overall with what it wants to do and it continues to do it well. The series has moved through a lot of stories, introduced a lot of characters and advanced the larger narrative in a great way from when Mutta was first let go at the car company. Seeing where he is now and what he’s accomplished is just fascinating, fun and really engaging to watch. This set is no exception.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 4th, 2015
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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